The Reverend Dr. John Polkinghorne was born in Weston-super-Mare, England on 16 October 1930. (eds. [29], Sometimes Christianity seems to him to be just too good to be true, but when this sort of doubt arises he says to himself, "All right then, deny it," and writes that he knows this is something he could never do. He suggests that God is the ultimate answer to Leibniz's great question "why is there something rather than nothing?" When Polkinghorne argues that the minute adjustments of cosmological constants for life points towards an explanation beyond the scientific realm, Blackburn argues that this relies on a natural preference for explanation in terms of agency. His view of the Resurrection, however, should raise no eyebrows among orthodox Christians. Polkinghorne is the author of five books on physics and twenty-six on the relationship between science and religion;[10] his publications include The Quantum World (1989), Quantum Physics and Theology: An Unexpected Kinship (2005), Exploring Reality: The Intertwining of Science and Religion (2007), and Questions of Truth (2009). an intervention against, but … He is an honorary fellow of St Chad's College, Durham, and was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Durham in 1998; and in 2002 was awarded the Templeton Prize for his contributions to research at the interface between science and religion. He describes his position as critical realismand believes that science and religion address aspects of the same reality. He suggests that "the nearest analogy in the physical world [to God] would be ... the Quantum Vacuum."[29]. New Haven and London: Yale University Press 1998. Polkinghorne said in an interview that he believes his move from science to religion has given him binocular vision, though he understands that it has aroused the kind of suspicion "that might follow the claim to be a vegetarian butcher." In short, for Polkinghorne the universe is a created order, a beautiful and rational place that is also open to human and divine action”past, present, and future. Davis concludes, "It hasn't been easy to steer a middle course between fundamentalism and modernism, particularly on issues involving science. [44], Richard Dawkins, formerly Professor for Public Understanding of Science at Oxford, writes that the same three names of British scientists who are also sincerely religious crop up with the "likable familiarity of senior partners in a firm of Dickensian lawyers": Arthur Peacocke, Russell Stannard, and John Polkinghorne, all of whom have either won the Templeton Prize or are on its board of trustees. [11], Polkinghorne was born in Weston-super-Mare on 16 October 1930 to Dorothy Charlton, the daughter of a groom and George Polkinghorne, who worked for the post office. Polkinghorne, whose understanding of science is second to none, is unencumbered by either burden. Would be nice to hear John's thoughts on this. While those liberal Protestants who called themselves “modernists” sought to accommodate traditional Christian beliefs to modern science, politics, and culture, their conservative opponents were eager “to do battle royal for the fundamentals,” in the militaristic language of the Baptist preacher who coined the word. [30], Polkinghorne considers that "the question of the existence of God is the single most important question we face about the nature of reality"[31] and quotes with approval Anthony Kenny: "After all, if there is no God, then God is incalculably the greatest single creation of the human imagination." His mathematical ability was evident as a youngster. There was a brother, Peter, and a sister, Ann, who died when she was six, one month before John's birth. The word fundamentalist was first used in July 1920, and for much of the next decade American Protestants fought bitter internal battles over who would control their denominational seminaries, mission boards, and local churches. Questions are organized under seven headings and run the gamut from “Who Were Adam and Eve?” or “Who or What is ‘the Devil’?” to “Why is the Universe so Big?” or “Is Evolution Fact or Theory?” Whether responding separately or jointly, the authors are typically quite effective in their answers. Physicist, theologian, author, and Anglican priest, John Polkinghorne is well-known and respected for his writings on the relationship between science and religion. He is "cautious about our powers to assess coherence," pointing out that in 1900 a "competent ... undergraduate could have demonstrated the 'incoherence'" of quantum ideas. Polkinghorne accepted a postdoctoral Harkness Fellowship with the California Institute of Technology, where he worked with Murray Gell-Mann. Biography John Polkinghorne's father, George Polkinghorne, had a career with the Post Office and, at the time of his son's birth was working at the Post Office in Weston-super-Mare.John's mother, Dorothy Charlton, was the daughter of a groom who was a skilled horseman both as a rider and a trainer. [39], Nancy Frankenberry, Professor of Religion at Dartmouth College, has described Polkinghorne as the finest British theologian/scientist of our time, citing his work on the possible relationship between chaos theory and natural theology. Seeking Purpose in a Universe of Chance (1998) Victor J. Stenger . He began his studies in science, specifically physics. I have added to it the free-process defence, that a world allowed to make itself is better than a puppet theatre with a Cosmic Tyrant. “Science offers an illuminating context within which much theological reflection can take place, but in its turn it needs to be considered in the wider and deeper context of intelligibility that a belief in God affords.” As an expert in fundamental physics, Polkinghorne likes to advance a modest form of natural theology”not the older kind of argument that places design in direct competition with biological evolution and stresses “gaps” in natural processes, but a newer style of argument based on the very comprehensibility of nature and nature’s laws. He worked for five years as a curate in south Bristol, then as vicar in Blean, Kent, before returning to Cambridge in 1986 as dean of chapel at Trinity Hall. He suggests that the mechanistic explanations of the world that have continued from Laplace to Richard Dawkins should be replaced by an understanding that most of nature is cloud-like rather than clock-like. He addresses the questions of "Does the concept of God make sense? John Polkinghorne. John was the couple's third child. He served as chairman of the governors of The Perse School from 1972 to 1981. Edward B. Davis is professor of the history of science at Messiah College and president of the American Scientific Affiliation. If you want this website to work, you must enable javascript. John Charlton Polkinghorne, KBE FRS (born 16 October 1930) is an English theoretical physicist, theologian, writer and Anglican priest. John Charlton Polkinghorne, KBE, FRS (born 16 October 1930) is an English theoretical physicist, theologian, and Anglican priest. Previously, I provided an overview of Polkinghorne’s views on natural theology.However, perhaps the best place to get acquainted with his position is to read the title chapter from his book, Belief in God in an Age of Science.First delivered as the Terry Lectures at Yale University in October 1996, this eloquent little book contains five chapters and a short … ), (VATICAN: Vatican Observatory, 2001), This page was last edited on 24 January 2021, at 07:24. He should also be read”perhaps it’s time to get acquainted. But I am certainly not a creationist in that curious North American sense, which implies interpreting Genesis 1 in a flat-footed literal way and supposing that evolution is wrong. JOHN POLKINGHORNE 172 • Science & Christian Belief, Vol 18, No. The tale of human evil is such that one cannot make that assertion without a quiver, but I believe that it is true nevertheless. He lives in Cambridge, UK. Quantum Physics and Theology: An Unexpected Kinship. John Polkinghorne, Belief in God in an Age of Science (1998). Polkinghorne, both a particle physicist and Anglican priest, here explores just what rational grounds there could be for Christian beliefs, maintaining that the quest for motivated understanding is a concern shared by scientists and religious thinkers alike. John Polkinghorne, Belief in God in an Age of Science, New Haven-London: Y ale University Press (1998), p. 49. ", a position he rejects. [13], He joined the Christian Union of UCCF while at Cambridge and met his future wife, Ruth Martin, another member of the union and also a mathematics student. It hasn’t been easy to steer a middle course between fundamentalism and modernism, particularly on issues involving science. In 12 volumes, he presents a scientific, analytical, and rational perspective on various aspects of the Christian religion, … 1 • 21 6 Essentially, Polkinghorne develops his proposal in Belief in God in an Age of Science (1998) and Faith, Science, and Understanding (2000). John Polkinghorne is a major figure in today’s debates over the compatibility of science and religion. Internationally known as both a theoretical physicist and a theologian—the only ordained member of the Royal Society—Polkinghorne brings unique qualifications to his inquiry into the possibilities of believing in God in an age of science. All this stuff shows is that "a little learning is a dangerous thing" Follow-up Question: One more thing. Polkinghorne has done that very successfully for a generation, and for this he ought to be both appreciated and emulated."[48]. and a Ph.D. at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was elected a fellow in 1954 and studied under Paul Dirac, focusing on particle physics. The Rev. 2 of the new natural theology is that theistic belief affords coherent and intel-lectually satisfying answers to some of these ‘meta-questions’ (questions that take us beyond science itself). 09. John Polkinghorne is a major figure in today’s debates over the compatibility of science and religion. Polkinghorne has done that very successfully for a generation, and for this he ought to be both appreciated and emulated. Comments are visible to subscribers only. Review of Belief in God in the Age of Science by John Polkinghorne. He is a founding member of the Society of Ordained Scientists and also of the International Society for Science and Religion, of which he was the first president. Blackburn writes that he finished Polkinghorne's books in "despair at humanity's capacity for self-deception. After implying that the book's publisher, Westminster John Knox, was a self-publisher, Grayling went on to write that Polkinghorne and others were eager to see the credibility accorded to scientific research extended to religious perspectives through association. What does he mean by theology in a scientific context? Nevertheless, the landscape has changed significantly in recent decades, as thoughtful alternatives to both extremes have appeared in growing numbers”leading scientists and theologians who accept evolution, while at the same time affirming the Nicene Creed without crossing their fingers. As he notes in the preface, for fifty years such contextual theologies as feminist theology, liberation theology, or African theology, have been flourishing. "[28] He believes that standard physical causation cannot adequately describe the manifold ways in which things and people interact, and uses the phrase "active information" to describe how, when several outcomes are possible, there may be higher levels of causation that choose which one occurs. John Charlton Polkinghorne is an English theoretical physicist, theologian, and writer. “The tendency among atheist writers to identify reason exclusively with scientific modes of thought,” he notes pointedly, “is a disastrous diminishment of our human powers of truth-seeking inquiry.” Theology in turn has something to say to science. Dawkins writes that he is not so much bewildered by their belief in a cosmic lawgiver, but by their beliefs in the minutiae of Christianity, such as the resurrection and forgiveness of sins, and that such scientists, in Britain and in the US, are the subject of bemused bafflement among their peers. [18] He served as canon theologian of Liverpool Cathedral from 1994 to 2005.[19]. A Brief Summary of Belief in God in an Age of Science. He is very doubtful of St Anselm's Ontological Argument. Following National Service in the Royal Army Educational Corps from 1948 to 1949, John Polkinghorne studied at Trinity College, Cambridge (receiving his MA in 1956) and then defended his doctorate in physics in 1955, studying under the quantum physicist Paul Dirac. William Jennings Bryan, the fundamentalist leader who assisted the prosecution, said that theistic evolution was “the anesthetic that dulls the pain while the faith is removed,” thus shortcutting any serious attempt at productive conversation. Bryan and Pace’s fears were not unwarranted. In 2006 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Hong Kong Baptist University as part of their 50-year celebrations. John Shelby Spong, Why Christianity Must Change or Die (1998). In 1956 he was appointed Lecturer in Mathematical Physics at the … John Polkinghorne, Theology in the Context of Science (2009). His two most recent books are written in his characteristically clear, often eloquent manner. John Charlton Polkinghorne is an English theoretical physicist, theologian, writer, and Anglican priest. He was educated at The Perse School, Cambridge. Internationally known as both a theoretical physicist and a theologian—the only ordained member of the Royal Society—Polkinghorne brings unique qualifications to his inquiry into the possibilities of believing in God in an age of science. He has been a member of the BMA Medical Ethics Committee, the General Synod of the Church of England, the Doctrine Commission, and the Human Genetics Commission. From … 17 . New Haven, CT: Yale Nota Bene. It would be “a serious apologetic mistake,” he writes with typical British understatement, “if Christian theology thought that operating in the context of science should somehow discourage it from laying proper emphasis on the essential centrality of Christ’s Resurrection, however counterintuitive that belief may seem in the light of mundane expectation.” In an open-minded quest for motivated belief, Polkinghorne examines the evidence for the empty tomb, concluding that something truly miraculous actually happened”a foretaste of what will also happen to us, in the new creation that God will someday fashion from the dying embers of the old creation that has been our abode in this life. He earned both an M.A. [17] He said in an interview that he felt he had done his bit for science after 25 years, and that his best mathematical work was probably behind him; Christianity had always been central to his life, so ordination offered an attractive second career. The laws of nature “underlie the form and possibility of all occurrence,” but science can treat them only “as given brute facts. He understands that the Resurrection is “the pivot on which the claim of a unique and transcendent significance for Jesus must turn,” and he does not turn away from embracing the risen Lord. The most important author in this category is surely John Polkinghorne, a world-class mathematical physicist who resigned his chair at Cambridge in mid-career to study for the Anglican ministry. York Courses), 'Hawking, Dawkins and GOD' (2012) (Conversation on CD with Canon John Young. [37], Following the resignation of Michael Reiss, the director of education at the Royal Society—who had controversially argued that school pupils who believed in creationism should be used by science teachers to start discussions, rather than be rejected per se[38]—Polkinghorne argued in The Times that "As a Christian believer I am, of course, a creationist in the proper sense of the term, for I believe that the mind and the purpose of a divine Creator lie behind the fruitful history and remarkable order of the universe which science explores. Peter died in 1942 while flying for the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. These laws, in their economy and rational beauty, have a character that seems to point the enquirer beyond what science itself is capable of telling, making a materialist acceptance of them as unexplained brute facts an intellectually unsatisfying stance to take.” The very possibility of science, in his view, “is not a mere happy accident, but it is a sign that the mind of the Creator lies behind the wonderful order that scientists are privileged to explore.” In short, “the activity of science is recognized to be an aspect of the imago Dei.” Rationality itself, without which science would be impossible, provides another example of theology in a scientific context. ^ Polkinghorne, John (2003). ^ John Polkinghorne (2007). It is a consistent theme of his work that when he "turned his collar around" he did not stop seeking truth. [12], Polkinghorne decided to train for the priesthood in 1977. [16] While employed by Cambridge, he also spent time at Princeton, Berkeley, Stanford, and at CERN in Geneva. [23] He is an honorary fellow of St Edmund's College, Cambridge. "[43] The novelist Simon Ings, writing in the New Scientist, said Polkinghorne's argument for the proposition that God is real is cogent and his evidence elegant. Polkinghorne sees science and religion as two methods of viewing the same reality, including the belief that the body, mind, and soul are different parts of this same reality. In addition, Polkinghorne argues, atheists have faiths of their own—beliefs that aren’t visible, testable, or verifiable any more than religion is, yet they inform one’s point of view in a manner similar to religious faith. [24], Polkinghorne said in an interview that he believes his move from science to religion has given him binocular vision, though he understands that it has aroused the kind of suspicion "that might follow the claim to be a vegetarian butcher. The title of one, Theology in the Context of Science (Yale University Press, 2009), reflects the fact that Polkinghorne’s work has become increasingly theological over the years. [15] For 25 years, he worked on theories about elementary particles, played a role in the discovery of the quark,[11] and researched the analytic and high-energy properties of Feynman integrals and the foundations of S-matrix theory. Exploring Reality: the Intertwining of Science and Religion. [40] Owen Gingerich, an astronomer and former Harvard professor, has called him a leading voice on the relationship between science and religion. A prominent and leading voice explaining the relationship between science and religion, he was Professor of Mathematical Physics at the University of Cambridge from 1968 to 1979, when he resigned his chair to study for the priesthood, becoming an ordained Anglican priest in 1982. Victor J. Stenger has reviewed John's Belief in God in the Age of Science here. [22] He is a member of staff of the Psychology and Religion Research Group at Cambridge University. Polkinghorne takes the novel step of treating science and religion as an important type of contextual theology in its own right, recognizing that science, no less than other aspects of modern thought and culture, can suggest insights and provide information that are vital for theological reflection. [12], He was educated at the local primary school in Street, Somerset, then was taught by a friend of the family at home, and later at a Quaker school. [27], Because scientific experiments try to eliminate extraneous influences, he believes they are atypical of what goes on in nature. Polkinghorne has written 34 books, translated into 18 languages; 26 concern science and religion, often for a popular audience. John Polkinghorne on Divine Action: a coherent Theological Evolution Science & Christian Belief, Vol 24, No. In 1997 he was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE), although as an ordained priest in the Church of England, he is not styled as "Sir John Polkinghorne". The dozens of books he has written for a quarter century, though often repetitious and sometimes overly technical for readers without a strong background in science and religion, put forth a wide-ranging, engaging, and original vision of science and Christianity as “cousinly” enterprises sharing a concern for “motivated belief.” Above all, Polkinghorne offers an open-minded, critical attitude toward both science and theology that constitutes a powerful, deeply insightful case for the truth of Christian theism. Theologian understands the activity of science ( 1998 ) Hong Kong Baptist University as part of their 50-year celebrations SPCK. 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